Studios usually offer film critics advance screenings of their films so that they have time to write their reviews (including Ars) before the films become available to the general public. The Los Angeles Times is the paper of record for the Los Angeles metro area, so you would expect the writers to have easy access to these movie screenings.
But in a Friday tweet storm, LA Times writer Glenn Whipp said Disney had banned the newspaper from showing films such as: Thor: Ragnarok in retaliation for his critical coverage of Disney’s relationship with the city of Anaheim, home of Disneyland.
“The Los Angeles Times has been ‘paused’ by Disney, preventing his reporters and critics from seeing his films.” Whipp wrote:. “Disney didn’t like the Time‘ recent two-part story about Disneyland’s business ties to the city of Anaheim.”
The indictment doesn’t just come from one writer, either. “The Walt Disney Co. studios refused the… Time prior screenings, citing what it called unfair reporting about its business ties to Anaheim,” a statement said. LA Times website.
You can read the stories that supposedly led to the ban here and here.
The first story describes how Disney received hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax exemptions in exchange for expanding its Disneyland facilities. For example, Disney got a 30-year ticket tax exemption in exchange for a $1 billion investment in a new one Star Wars exhibition in Anaheim.
Disney once had a cozy relationship with Anaheim, but as the park has become more lucrative and the city’s demographics have changed, the relationship has deteriorated. Some areas of the city are struggling economically, with critics saying Disney’s generous tax breaks are depriving the city of the revenue it could use to address the city’s problems.
Anaheim is now 53 percent Hispanic, and according to the LA Times, “three out of four council candidates supporting Disney’s 2016 campaign spending were white, while three out of four candidates targeted by negative campaigns by PACs with direct or indirect financial connections to Disney were Latino.”
Disney spent a lot of money supporting Disney-friendly candidates in the 2016 Anaheim City Council election. But two new Disney critics won seats on the council, enough to give Anaheim Mayor and Disney critic Tom Tait a majority.
Some campaigns were filthy. The LA Times reports that “a press release sent to media in the region describes a domestic violence case in 2016” involving the brother-in-law of one of the candidates Disney opposed.
The company that shipped the release considers Disney a previous customer, the paper says, and has partnered with Kris Murray, an Anaheim city council member who is seen as a Disney ally.
Murray also went on a European vacation with Disney’s director of government relations, Carrie Nocella, “soon after Murray was re-elected to a second term in November 2014,” though Murray says she paid her own way during the trip.
We’ve asked Disney for comment on the story and will update if we get a response. The company is far from the first company to have negative press coverage of journalists and sever relationships — see examples ranging from Apple responding to Gizmodo’s coverage of the iPhone 4 leak or Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks withdrawing credentials for longtime ESPN NBA games. reporters – but this particular blacklist can be painful given the LA Times’ history of movie coverage and Disney’s upcoming slate with things like a new Star Wars movie and many from the Marvel movie universe.